Pete Simpson Family Performing “John Brown’s Body” in Laramie
After 40 years of doing theater in Wyoming with Spontaneous Theater Productions, the Pete Simpson family is finally performing all together as they tour with a production of "John Brown's Body" to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War.
"We like this play because it's a time when our country nearly failed," said Lynne Simpson about the production of Steven Vincent Benet's Pulitzer Prize winning poem. "It was a time we were desperately trying to hold the country together and the bitter and hateful conflict between our own citizens, there's such drama and sadness in the amount of losses. We feel we're in a time of national division now so we think it's a very important play to do and a chance for Americans to commemorate our history."
While "John Brown's Body" focuses on a time of conflict and loss in America, Pete Simpson, Sr. said the language used in the play combined with the outcome of the historic events will make for an inspiring night.
"It makes reference to some of the tough things and the exalted things," said Pete, Sr. "It should be uplifting in many ways because of the triumph out of that tragedy and because of the brilliant way in which Steven Vincent Benet has articulated that history."
In addition to the appeal of this timely and timeless production, it is also the first chance to see all five members of the Pete Simpson family in a production together. While Pete, Sr. and Lynne have done several different productions with their children individually, Pete, Sr. said they all knew they wanted to be in a production together "before it's too late."
"Our whole life in Wyoming has been, for me, about the theater and my husband is a wonderful actor, so we raised three children who are all performers," said Lynne. "Seeing how aged their parents are and that we're saying, 'This is our final moment and our stage farewell,' they all said, 'We want to do it with you!'"
With their three children Milward, Maggie and Pete, Jr. living across the country and traveling for work, they've utilized Skype in order to rehearse their parts together.
"It's been fun because they're all so professional now, they won't let me direct them," said Lynne about working with her children. "They direct us and each other, so it's been kind of what we call a collaboration in terms of putting this together."
The Simpson's won't just be working with each other, they'll also be working with community choirs on the touring production. Choirs from Cody, Casper and Cheyenne will be participating with the Cheyenne Chamber Singers also performing in Laramie.
"It's different for these choirs because they have to be actors," said Lynne. "They shout and sing and dance and play soldiers."
Spontaneous Theater Productions will present a Readers Theater Benefit Performance of "John Brown's Body" in Laramie on Friday, November 16th in the UW Arts & Sciences Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds from the performance will go toward a theater scholarship at the University of Wyoming. Tickets are available at the Student Union information desk, through the Fine Arts Box Office or by calling (307)766-6666.